US stocks were on track to post their third weekly decline in a row after data showing a slight uptick in unemployment failed to assuage concerns that the Federal Reserve will continue to boost interest rates sharply.
Wall Street’s broad S&P 500 rose 1.1 percent in choppy afternoon trading on Friday, but remained down about 1.3 percent for the week. The Nasdaq Composite climbed by a similar margin but was also lodged about 1.9 percent in the red from last Friday’s closing level.
The US jobs report, released on Friday, showed that the pace of hiring slowed to 315,000 in August from 526,000 the previous month — slightly exceeding economists’ forecasts of a sharper slowdown. However, the unemployment rate unexpectedly ticked up to 3.7 percent from 3.5 percent the previous month, suggesting to some economists that the jobs market is losing momentum.
Jobs data have been closely scrutinized in recent months for clues about how aggressively the Fed will tighten monetary policy, with evidence of a hotter labor market fueling expectations of larger and faster interest rate rises.
Conversely, indications of cooling jobs activity have helped to reduce projections of how far the Fed will opt to increase borrowing costs, as it strives to strike a balance between quelling rapid price growth and pushing the US economy even further into a protracted slowdown.
“The labor market is moving in the right direction for policymakers,” said Jeffrey Roach, chief economist for LPL Financial. “An uptick in unemployment along with a modest increase in the participation rate means that the labor market in August is less tight than it was in July.”
The labor force participation rate — the share of the working age population in work or actively seeking employment — stood at 62.4 percent in August, Friday’s figures showed. July’s proportion stood at 62.1 percent.
Expectations for Fed rate increases cooled slightly after the jobs report, with trading in federal funds futures suggesting markets expect the Fed to raise its main rate to 3.82 per cent by February 2023 from a projection of 3.89 per cent at the close on Thursday. The rate would still mark a strong uptick from the central bank’s current target range of 2.25 to 2.50 per cent.
“While some doors for hiring are closing, with a modestly slowing payroll growth number, it clearly is at a fast enough pace to provide the Federal Reserve the open door to pursue its top priority, lower rates of current inflation,” said Rick Rieder, BlackRock’s chief investment officer of global fixed income.
In government debt markets, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note lost 0.03 percentage points to 3.23 per cent. The policy-sensitive two-year yield dropped 0.1 percentage points to 3.43 per cent, having this week touched its highest point in 15 years. Bond yields rise as their prices fall.
Elsewhere, European shares extended their gains after the jobs data release, with the regional Stoxx 600 index adding 2 per cent — putting the brakes on five straight days of declines.